Friday, June 24, 2011

Law & Order UK: Emilia di Girolamo, Lead Writer

Law & Order fans don’t always get much information on those people who work the show off screen, so here’s a short Q&A that gives some background on lead writer Emilia di Girolamo.

(Source: ITV publicity)

Emilia di Girolamo
Lead Writer

As ever the storylines are hard hitting and all set in very different worlds. There are some emotional, some shocking and some terrifyingly close to home…

"This season we really delve into our regular characters’ lives and explore the emotional impact these cases have on our heroes. Both Matt and Ronnie go on huge personal journeys this season and I love where these seven stories take them. We also do a Law & Order UK first and close the season with a two-parter. Having two hours rather than one to tell a story with our regulars was an exciting challenge and I’m very glad I got to write both episodes. I’m immensely proud of the double bill - Deal and Survivor’s Guilt – which not only explore some of the most challenging territory we’ve ever covered but also feature stunning performances from Bradley Walsh, Jamie Bamber and guest actor, the utterly brilliant, Charles Mnene.

"There’s plenty of topical issues raised throughout the season from a gun rampage, the death of a child under the eye of social services to gun toting child drug dealers. We can boast a whole host of fabulous guest stars too – James Fox, Lesley Manville, Colin Salmon, Greg Wise, Lucy Speed and Patricia Potter to name but a few."

Is this your dream job? You have admitted in the past to being a huge Law&Order fan.

"I am a huge Law & Order fan and watched the mothership religiously for 20 years so landing the job as lead writer and co-producer on Law & Order: UK was a dream come true. I think all those episodes have seeped into my veins and I find writing for the show as easy as breathing. I don’t think there’s another UK writer quite as geeky as me when it comes to Law & Order! I’m also a huge fan of Law & Order Special Victims Unit and their more emotional style of storytelling has definitely been an influence on my writing for Law & Order: UK and this season as a whole."

How has your background, working in prisoner rehabilitation, helped you as a writer?

"I worked in prison for eight years and have a PhD in the rehabilitation of offenders using drama based techniques. It was an incredible experience and brought me into contact with some unique characters. The work I did varied but ultimately it was about examining an offender’s story – what brought them to prison, what they did, why they did it, what they could have done differently and rehearsing for change so they could become equipped with the skills to recognise trigger points and stop themselves re-offending. Inevitably my experience of working with offenders has had a profound affect on my writing.

"I spent years working with people who had done terrible things and getting to the heart of why they offended. I stepped into some very dark places and got a glimpse of a side of humanity most writers probably never see. It’s left me with a need to tell stories in a very honest, open and emotional way. I like to be as truthful as possible when writing about offending behavior because there are a whole stack of clichés TV crime writers seem to rely on and they just become accepted as real. I think in terms of my episodes of Law & Order: UK we’ve made some brave decisions in our representation of offenders and their behavior and we strive to avoid those crime show clichés."

Do you find yourself drawn to gruesome or puzzling crime stories on the news and in the papers wondering how you could work various elements into storylines?

"I like to be true to the original concept of the mothership but then it’s about going on a journey with that idea and telling a story I want to tell. I don’t have any desire to write docudrama so documenting a real crime case using our regulars doesn’t appeal to me. But taking a topical issue, for example, the death of a child on the at risk register, as in Safe, and then exploring how and why that might happen or who is to blame, in a fictional context, does. It means I can explore topical, difficult territory and say something I hope our audience will care about."

How closely do your scripts resemble the US originals? Do you ever find having to adapt existing storylines restrictive or have you made these very much your own?

"All the writers work differently but in general there is very little left from the US originals and anyone who avoids our show because they watched the original and thinks they’ll know who the killer is should give us a go. Even where some elements of the original US episode remain, the killer isn’t always the same. I’ve written 10 episodes in all now and I actually found adapting really liberating. I always choose episodes which feel relevant to a UK audience and where I have something I want to say about our society. But I really only use the original script as a starting point – a theme or story idea I want to explore – and then I make it absolutely my own."


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Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.

1 comment:

gahks said...

di Girolamo alludes to a two-part series five finale: is this a reworking of Rene Balcer's "Refuge, Parts 1 & 2" I wonder?